Learning How to Let Inspiration Come to Me

25 Feb 2014

Slicker by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting, 18 1/2 x 18.
Slicker by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting, 18 1/2 x 18.

I went through a phase when I thought I could control everything--where my career was headed, how my relationships were going to turn out, and what kind of life I was going to have. Ah, I crack myself up. What was I thinking? I now realize that control is a bit of an illusion, and the best you can do is meet what appears on your path head-on.

That goes especially for being open to inspiration for artwork. I used to keep a stranglehold on what I was going to paint or draw, what color I was going to use, and the forms I wanted. Mapping everything out so nice and neatly, and meanwhile I was missing great opportunities or not knowing what to do with them when they popped up because I'd been working, essentially, with blinders on.

Spring Ironing by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting, 24 3/4 x 19.
Spring Ironing by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting, 24 3/4 x 19.
Something I heard Mary Whyte say a while ago brought all this up for me again. The artist was discussing how she assumed, when she moved from Philadelphia to South Carolina, and that she would paint landscapes and seascapes near her new home. But for the past 20 years Mary has embarked on a journey of "watercolor journalism," painting her local community and the people and places around her; documenting moments in time before they slip away.

And looking at Mary's work makes it obvious why letting inspiration lead the way can be the best course of action for an artist. She has created an amazing body of work that is unique and powerful, yet was completely unanticipated by her. But she was open to what crossed her path and used her considerable painting skill record a way of life and group of people who have come to mean a lot to her.

The same goes when you are working in a creatively open way. For me, boldness with mixing colors is all about using hues on the color wheel that you might not have anticipated reaching for. Allowing intuition and the wonder of the unexpected take part in our process can really lead to amazing works of art if we are willing to let go.

I know I'm trying to practice being more receptive and open to what comes, and the techniques and methods that I found in Painting Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor have really helped me get there with the fluidity of watercolor. If you are challenged by this too, consider this resource by Soon Warren and enjoy letting go!

 


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Comments

Lindy101 wrote
on 26 Feb 2014 9:55 AM

Courtney, I have followed your blogs for quite some time. You are an entertaining and informative writer. This piece on control/inspiration was one of your most powerful, poignant and reasonating writings for me. Such wisdom from one so young. I am a fiber artist that 'can't draw ' but will now give that venue another shot. Who knows?  ;?)

Lucy D wrote
on 1 Mar 2014 1:37 PM

Lindy101, I bet you can do it! I was a photography instructor for 3 or 4 years. I always told my students I couldn't draw that's why I took pictures! Then I started painting, then I started drawing. It took a few classes but I can draw! I really enjoy drawing too. And it has helped me with my paintings. Hope you enjoy it too!

Lucy D wrote
on 1 Mar 2014 1:43 PM

Lindy101, I bet you can do it! I was a photography instructor for 3 or 4 years. I always told my students I couldn't draw that's why I took pictures! Then I started painting, then I started drawing. It took a few classes but I can draw! I really enjoy drawing too. And it has helped me with my paintings. Hope you enjoy it too!

MsLaurieLane wrote
on 4 Mar 2014 6:44 PM

The front cover of the Drawing Illustration issue reminds me of Van Gogh (colors, mostly) -- and he looks a bit stressed.